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In the fast-paced world that we live in, it can feel downright impossible to get the entire family together in the same room. Trying to find an activity that everyone can enjoy together is an even more improbable task. Yet, sharing experiences as a family and spending time together is necessary for creating close family bonds and maintaining a sense of connection. Today’s GKIS article covers the pros and cons of the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S, recommendations for games to play as a family, suggestions for appropriate games that your kid can play alone, and some brief tips to keep your kids safe and connected when it comes to gaming. Creating family cohesion and safely navigating the technological world we live in can be difficult at times. Our Connected Family Course gives expert advice and strategies to create a connected home environment without having to disconnect from the internet.

Today’s Digital Playground

In today’s digital landscape, there is a generational divide when it comes to what is fun. While you may reminisce on the fun you had playing with your friends in an open field or playing board games with your family when you were a child, your kids might have zero interest in these types of activities. In the past twenty years, there has been a huge technological jump that has made the childhood activities that we grew up enjoying obsolete in today’s fast-paced world. Your children are used to a much more technically advanced world where entertainment comes in the form of video games, social media, and streaming services. To have a successful family night where everyone has fun, you may need to adapt and learn to engage with your kids in this new digital playground.

Here are some reasons why video games are a great way to connect with your kids:

  • Can be accessed at any time
  • Can fit into the most restrictive of work schedules
  • No need for planning
  • Do not have to worry about losing game pieces
  • Do not have to explain a complex set of rules
  • Most games are highly intuitive requiring little explanation

If you are curious about what we had to say about the other consoles and our game recommendations for them, we have GKIS Guides for the current PlayStation and Nintendo systems as well.

What is the Xbox?

The Xbox is a line of home entertainment systems/video game consoles created by Microsoft. This article focuses on the newest iterations of the console: The Xbox Series S and the Xbox Series X. Both the Xbox Series S and the Xbox Series X launched in 2020 and are currently in production. Although Microsoft doesn’t share its sales figures, estimates have been made that Microsoft has sold a combined total of about 5.8 million units of the Xbox Series X and Series S as of May 2021.[1]

The Pros and Cons of Microsoft’s Xbox consoles

Pros

The biggest advantage of the Xbox Series X/S is its focus as a home entertainment system. Microsoft created and marketed the newest versions of the Xbox as a multipurpose family entertainment hub for watching movies and television, playing games, socializing online, etc. With a huge userbase and the backing of Microsoft, the Xbox has become a fantastic selection when it comes to home video game consoles.

Additionally, the Xbox Series X and Series S are mostly backward compatible, allowing owners to play nearly all of the games that they had previously purchased for earlier consoles without having to repay for them. While many of the games are skewed more for an adult user base, there is a wide variety of games that have been targeted to kids with more appropriate content that is family-friendly. Also, the Xbox Series S is on the cheaper side when it comes to home game consoles at $299.

Cons

The Xbox Series X, which is more technologically advanced than the Xbox Series S is also nearly double the price at $499. Therefore, if your kids want the more advanced system with better graphics and framerates, and you know they do, you are going to have a potentially tough decision on your hands when deciding which of these two models to get for them.

Many parents don’t realize that kids can browse the internet through their Xbox consoles. That means they can access anything or anybody through that browser. That means you MUST program parental controls if you don’t want your child exploring inappropriate online neighborhoods.

Xbox Games to Play as a Family

When it comes to the Xbox Series X/S, there are a variety of interactive ways to connect with your family. You can play games together or use the console as a multimedia hub to stream movies and your favorite television shows through your favorite streaming services.

Here are 3 great Xbox games for you and your kids to play together:

  • Unravel 2
  • Overcooked! All You Can Eat
  • Rocket League

Unravel 2

Unravel 2 is a brilliant game revolving around a pair of little yarn people, referred to as Yarnies. The game is a platformer where your goal is to successfully traverse the environment without getting crushed by a boulder or eaten by a bird or fish.

This game has an ESRB rating of E, meaning it has been approved for kids of all ages. The only warning by the ESRB is that it contains mild fantasy violence as your character can get attacked by animals. There is no potential for interaction with online players within the game either.

While both Yarnies can be controlled by a single player, this game is best played with a friend. This game is great for building teamwork, bonding, and strengthening social skills. The whole point of the game is that you can achieve anything by working together. Unravel 2 is perfect for siblings bonding, parent/child bonding, and social interaction with a friend.

Overcooked! All You Can Eat

Overcooked is a game that requires cooperation as you play as restaurant workers making and serving food in the most chaotic of situations. Each environment has unique challenges that must be overcome through teamwork as you race against the clock to prepare meals. One stage has you preparing meals on a pirate ship with parts of the preparation area sliding back and forth along the ship making it difficult to reach previously reachable areas, so communication is key so that others can finish what you were doing if the playing field changes. Each environment has its own unique challenges that must be overcome by working together.

This game has an ESRB rating of E for everyone and has been approved for all ages. The only ESRB warning attached to this is that it has mild cartoon violence, which doesn’t even come close to the cartoons we used to watch, such as Tom and Jerry (there are no cats getting their teeth smashed with hammers by maniacal mice in this game).

Overcooked can be a great choice for bonding with your kids as teamwork and communication are so key to the gameplay. The sense of connection you feel as you get better and better scores is invaluable. This version of the game contains all the previous game content from the series and also has modifiers to adjust the difficulty allowing for an experience with high replay value that everyone can enjoy.

Rocket League

There is really nothing else like Rocket League out there. It is basically a combination of soccer and racecar driving. I know it sounds absurd and is hard to wrap your head around, but it is immensely gratifying. The goal is to use teamwork to hit a ball with your car into the other team’s goal.

Rocket League has an ESRB rating of E, meaning it has been approved for children of all ages. The only warning comes from some mild lyrics from the songs in the game.

The best part of this game is playing with other people. This game is great for parties and building a connection with your child as you can play on the same team and work together to score goals and win matches. Matches can be formed with up to 8 players on each team and with over 40 million players worldwide, there are plenty of people out there to play with.

Xbox Games Your Kids Can Play Alone

Video games also make great rewards for when your kid gets good grades or engages in other behaviors that you want to reward. Due to the immense number of games to choose from, it can become overwhelming when searching for a game for your child that is age-appropriate. There are plenty of games out there that are excessively violent, have strong language, and have sexual situations in them.

Here is a list of 3 games that we recommend:

  • Kingdom Hearts 3
  • Sonic Mania Plus
  • Immortals Fenyx Rising

Kingdom Heart 3

Is your kid obsessed with Disney characters? If the answer is yes, this game could be a great choice for your child. The kingdom hearts series revolves around a boy named Sora who teams up with Disney characters to rid the world of darkness. In Kingdom Hearts 3, you team up with Donald, Goofy, Hercules, Jack Sparrow, Elsa, and many more characters to explore different Disney worlds and go on an epic adventure of self-discovery. As you would expect from Disney, there are plenty of themes designed to promote admirable qualities like the acceptance of yourself and others.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is rated E10 for fantasy violence as you use magic and a sword, shaped like a key, to defeat the bad guys. There is no blood and gore in the game and the creatures just poof out of existence when defeated.

The best part of this game is getting to interact with your favorite Disney characters. The storyline is also fantastic and fits in well with the Disney movies that the characters are from. Like most other Disney products, the game’s story revolves around the main character’s growth as a human being and there are several positive lessons for your child to learn.

Sonic Mania Plus

Sonic Mania Plus is an action platformer that revolves around the world’s fastest hedgehog as he sets out to defeat an evil scientist, named Dr. Eggman. The game designers set out to bring back the feel of the games from the 1990s with smoother gameplay. The result is a fun game that looks and plays like the Sonic the Hedgehog games that were around when you were a kid.

Sonic Mania Plus has an ESRB rating of E for everyone. Like Overcooked, this game’s only warning comes from mild cartoon violence. “Mild cartoon violence” refers to your character jumping on robotic creatures to defeat them. The critters basically turn into bunnies and other furry animals after you jump on them as you are rescuing them, rather than harming them.

If you played the earlier Sonic games, this game could have some added benefits. You can bond with your kid over a shared love of the characters and maybe show off some of your own video game skills by playing with your kid.

Immortals Fenyx Rising

Immortals Fenyx Rising is the Xbox’s response to the success of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The gameplay is very similar to that of Breath of the Wild but revolves around Greek mythology. In Immortals, you play as a human named Fenyx who must stop Typhon in his quest to get revenge on the gods of Olympus.  This game is set in an extremely expansive open world that the player is free to explore as they see fit.

Immortals Fenyx Rising has been rated T for teens due to language, suggestive themes, and violence. There is some suggestive humor and dialogue between the characters which may be inappropriate for younger children. The violence in this game is against fantasy creatures and Greek gods., mostly stemming from Greek mythology.  While not appropriate for younger children, this game is really fun for tweens and teens.

The game covers many of the themes in Greek mythology but ultimately revolves around becoming a strong, independent individual who realizes that one’s flaws should be accepted and celebrated rather than hidden away. It is ultimately about self-acceptance. It should also be noted that the main character’s physical characteristics and gender can be adjusted so that all kids playing this game can feel connected to the character, which is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to inclusivity and representation.

How To Keep Your Kids Safe Playing Video Games

  • Research the games before buying them
  • Check the ESRB ratings
  • Play with your children or check in on them
  • Talk to your children and maintain a close family bond.

To stay in the know about how to keep your kids and teens safe online, check out our weekly coaching videos on our GKIS App. The GKIS App will keep you in the loop with ways to keep your family connected and safe while engaging with the internet, social media, video games, and more by providing knowledge that prevents digital injury before it occurs.

Doctor Bs parenting guide, Screen Time in the Mean Time, is a wealth of knowledge about screen safety and keeping your kids safe from the numerous dangers inherent in the world we live in.

Thanks to CSUCI intern, Michael Watson for researching video game addiction and how gamers are solving the problem themselves.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
GetKidsInternetSafe.com

 

 

Works Cited

[1] Byrd, M. (2021). PS5 vs Xbox Series X sales: Who is winning the 2021 console war so far? Den of Geek. https://www.denofgeek.com/games/xbox-series-x-ps5-2021-console-war-sales/

Photo Credits

Photo by Kamil S (https://unsplash.com/photos/Pp3Xg09igxE)

Photo by Kamil S (https://unsplash.com/photos/SuPAbuuK7f4)

Photo by Billy Freeman (https://unsplash.com/photos/DPOdCl4bGJU)

Photo by Mika Baumeister (https://unsplash.com/photos/HADjLtjoe2E)

 

Thanks to Kent Williams for the beautiful painting used for the thumbnail. (https://www.kentwilliams.com/paintings/2018/8/16/2018/8/16/m-w)

 

michael.watson507@myci.csuci.edu
michael.watson507@myci.csuci.edu
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